Robert Winter, chronicler of LA structure, has died

Los Angeles-based architectural historian Robert Winter, whose writings illuminated the region’s architectural treasures and helped shape the city’s built environment, has died.

Anna Magnuson, Winter’s great niece, confirmed the longtime professor at Occidental College passed away on Saturday at the age of 94.

“I’m sorry he couldn’t go on forever,” Magnuson tells Curbed. “He always made new friends who were drawn to his sense of humor and passion.”

Winter’s seminal work, An Architectural Guide to Los Angeles, co-authored with David Gebhard, has graced the bookshelves of architecture aficionados in Southern California since its first edition in 1965.

Winter was particularly well known as an expert in craft architecture – partly because of his many writings on the subject, and partly because his own house, built by architect and tile maker Ernest Batchelder, was such an exquisite example of the style.

Friends and neighbors sometimes jokingly referred to winter as “Bungalow Bob”.

Winter was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1924. He attended Dartmouth University and Johns Hopkins before taking positions at UCLA and Occidental College, where he taught for more than three decades.

In a profile published in Occidental Weekly in 2009, Winter described his initial reservations about moving to uncultivated Los Angeles, introducing himself as a “missionary to the Gentiles.”

But winter would eventually become one of the region’s biggest proponents, fueling appreciation for LA’s diverse, often innovative architecture and complex urban landscape.

He also never shied away from scorching (if usually humorous) criticism. In a 2017 interview with Curbed, Winter described plans for a redesigned Los Angeles County Art Museum by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor as “Trumpitecture”: “The imagination of a billionaire what the great unwashed thought thinks is clever”.

According to Magnuson, Winter brought this sense of humor into the classroom, where he performed comedy acts – including a gorilla imitation – to help motivate students and spark their passion for architecture.

In a statement emailed, Paddy Calistro, editor of Angel City Press, who published the sixth edition of the Architectural Guidebook last year, names Winter “the godfather of architecture in LA.”

According to Calistro, Winter was “the last of a group who lived and breathed the built world of Los Angeles, the people who saw the evolution of modern architecture in the mid-century before it was even termed.”

Robert Inman, who worked with Winter on the latest edition of the Architectural Guidebook, recalls that Winter sometimes invited groups of people for walks around his Pasadena home and gave spontaneous lectures on California bungalow style.

“Bob leaves a gigantic gathering of friends and fans who have special personal memories of their time with him,” says Inman. “We lost a great man.”

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